Cuyo Island, Palawan: Best Kitesurfing and Kiteboarding in the Philippines
Cuyo Island, Palawan is reputedly the best place for kitesurfing or kiteboarding in the Philippines, so I did not want to leave the island without giving this extreme water sport a try. Before departing by ferry to Puerto Princesa, I was able to squeeze in an exciting three-hour basic lesson on kitesurfing with local kiter Jing Tabangay at the top spot on the island, Capusan Beach.
According to Jing, Cuyo Island is the best spot to kitesurf in the Philippines, if not one of the best in the world, because its geographic isolation and low-lying topography encourages strong and consistent trade winds during the amihan season from October to June, and peaking between the months of December to February. Capusan Beach, in particular, is the perfect spot, because it stretches out into a sand bar that offers both onshore and offshore winds (i.e. wind blowing towards and away from the coastline). The sand bar also creates a broad sand flat of shallow water, ideal for kiteboarding, and choppy waves behind the sand bar for “kitesurfing”, which is essentially kiteboarding on waves. Another kitesurfing spot on Cuyo Island with onshore winds is Victoria Beach (Quijano Beach), where Anino Retreat (formerly Quijano Windsurfing Retreat) is located.
Professional Swedish windsurfers were reputedly the first ones to discover the island’s potential as a Mecca for water sports in the late 1980s, when they tried windsurfing in Cuyo Island based on weather reports. Kitesurfing and kiteboarding were introduced in the island in early 2000s. Since then, kiters have made the long journey to Cuyo just to confirm the rumors of its being one of the best kitesurfing spots on the planet. Foreign kiteboarders have claimed that Cuyo trumps other established kitesurfing destinations like Thailand, Vietnam and Egypt. Despite its perfect conditions for these types of water sports, however, tourism hasn’t picked up on the island due to its remoteness and the lack of political will by local government leaders. But things may change soon, now that Cuyo is linked to Puerto Princesa by 12-seater turboprop plane.
At Capusan Beach, Jing introduced to me the basics of kitesurfing on dry land. These exercises focused on kite control. It involved setting up and maneuvering a two-meter training kite attached to a body harness to trace a figure “8” or infinity symbol in the sky. After becoming comfortable with the training kite, we moved on to an actual nine-meter kite Jing uses to kitesurf, which was intimidating to handle because it was powerful enough to lift you up several feet off the ground. I had to lean back and allow my body weight to counterbalance and thereby properly control the kite. Jing had to hold onto me from behind as safety precaution. The maneuvers required a lot of upper body strength, explaining why Jing was so ripped! After all, he’s been kitesurfing for the past seven years.
I handed back the big kite to Jing, who then headed out to the sandbar to demonstrate his kitesurfing prowess. A steady gust of wind picked up the kite and he was pulled across the shallow water. Tugging the lines, the kite lifted him up, allowing him to perform tricks on his board. I snapped photos in rapid succession, capturing his gravity-defying moves. It was an exciting to watch him leap and turn, occasionally picking up the board underneath him in midair. I wanted to spend more time watching his kiteboarding stunts but it was time to leave Cuyo on the ferry, so I waved goodbye and rushed back to the homestay to pack my stuff last minute.
Jing Tabangay is only one of two local kiters who offer kitesurfing/kiteboarding lessons on Cuyo Island. For lessons, he charges USD 500 for a 15-hour full course across a number of days, inclusive of one-on-one training and rental equipment; or PHP 1,500 per hour for those who want to try the sport. Contact him at +63 9085157118 for bookings.
For more travel information, check out my travel guide of Cuyo Island.